This post, by Juliette Wade, originally appeared on her TalkToYoUniverse blog on 2/2/12.
Do time-breaks in your story ever drive you mad?
They do me. My current novel is on a very strict schedule – this event has to happen on one day, then this other event has to happen at a three-day delay, and then the next one at the same three-day interval, etc. etc. I get to a certain point and I realize, "I’m on the wrong day. More time has to pass than this. How can I get more time to pass?"
If I were using a more external narrator, this might be easier. I might just say, "The next day…" or "Three hours later…" and there we go. Well, okay, it wouldn’t be that simple. The real problem with chronological breaks is that you have to maintain the story drive in spite of them, which means you have to create a sort of bridging effect across them.
So what kind of continuity links can make this work? There’s quite a range. You can make an explicit reference to the amount of time passing, but this works more easily with a distant narrator; with a deep point of view, there would have to be a specific reason why the character was aware that this much time was passing. Besides which, I don’t prefer to make direct reference to the amount of time if I can help it. I much prefer to use a topic link, or a psychological link.
A topic link means that you leave a cue in the last piece before your time break that you can then pick up again on the other side. I had a case where I was struggling with a break that looked something like this: